Wednesday, October 26, 2016

On the day when all the school children crunched apples at the same time, Wilbo taught them about Johnny Appleseed.

The odder the guest teaching assignment, the more I like it. One day at the smallest elementary school in my community, I was given a sheet with half hour visits to all the school's classrooms. The itinerary covered two days of face to face meetings between a teacher and the principal. I filled in as a teacher and principal teacher met. I showed up at the first and I led kindergarten kids coloring a booklet. In the next, kids worked through a page set of addition facts. I handily checked their work because addition facts once learned never can be forgotten. After lunch one the second day, the teacher pointed at a cooler of apples and said, "It's the Apple Crunch at 1:21 PM please precisely. Lead the children in that and take them outside for recess". I knew about the apple crunch because last year 400,000 kids had bit into an apple at the same time in West Michigan. The Apple Crunch had to be bigger, I including more children this year. I was excited. It was a lucky assignment.

One student helper distributed a sheet of paper towel to each child. I walked around with the cooler and let the children pick out an apple. Sadly, we had exactly one apple for every child, so I had to pass on leading by example, taking a big crunch for myself only in imagination.

So I prepped the kids. All the classrooms have a digital click with red numbers. "When the clock reads 1:19 PM, ready your apple in your hand. When the clock reads 1:20 PM, keep your eyes peeled. For when that zero turns to a number one, take a bite".

The kids' eyes were glued to the clock from 1:15 PM. Maybe they were imagining thousands of children nearby staring at a clock, apple in hand.

"The clock reads 1:20 PM. Get ready and look for the One.  When you see that one, take a bite!"

It was a long minute. The zero turned to a number one and I bellowed, "Bite"! And twenty-eight children bit. We bit apples simultaneously! We had apple crunched successfully!

The kids kept nibbling. The school had supplied fresh, juicy Spy apples picked at an orchard in the rural county. So nibbling the treat needed no encouragement. "What's this brown thing", a student asked loudly, surprised.

I hadn't thought about the apple core. "That's a seed. An apple has eight or ten seeds in its core. Don't eat the core and don't eat the seeds"!

The kids plucked out one or two seeds. "Apple trees grow from those brown seeds. Pinch them out, save them in a little packet of towel. Ask your parent to help you plant them at home"! The kids did just that. Then we wrapped the cores in paper and tossed that into the basket. I went around with the waste basket.

The seeds reminded me of Johnny Appleseed, whose final resting place I had visited in Fort Wayne, Indiana. So I shared, "A long time ago, a man named Johnny Appleseed grew apple trees from seed, and he sold them to families traveling west in covered wagons. And so, we have all these trees near here that a friend says were planted by Johnny".

The kiddos lined up for recess. I couldn't help myself. "Johnny Appleseed was so gentle he put out his campfire. He saw mosquitoes were flying into the flames. So he never built a campfire again". We marched to the playground.

I watched the kids enjoying themselves in the brisk October air. A pack of boys played a simple game like football, running with the pig skin until tagged. A few boys could run freely ahead of the fingers for a minute or more. A gaggle of kids climbed on the playscape. One boy ran towards me with palms black with soil and a grin brimming his face from ear to ear. Quite a wash up job awaited.

"I planted all my apple seeds on the playground"!

"You did! Now you are an apple farmer"!

Didn't tell the boy that seeds planted where children trampled had poor chances. The big oaks towering over the playground had acorns dropping. I decided to save that nature lesson for another day.

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